Everyone needs to feel connected, supported, and understood. I think women are more likely than men to join and create official and unofficial groups for exactly these benefits.
Many women feel pressured to be superhuman and successful on all fronts: to be a loving wife and mother at home, have a rocking career, and look like they haven't aged since their 25th birthday. This puts many of us into an emotional lose-lose with ever-present feelings of guilt for not being able to do it all. As the saying goes, "No one can serve two masters," yet most working mothers spend much of their time and energy trying to do just that.
In my private practice, I have found that many working mothers feel alone and are ashamed of the resentment they feel for being torn between worlds. The clients who manage best are the ones who have solid support systems in place. Personally, I have always loved and benefited from the power of being in a positive, supportive group setting. I grew up in a family with three older sisters who loved and supported me. I have had the same group of friends since grade school. To this day, my preferred form of exercise is in groups, whether it's Zumba, kickboxing, or yoga. I have run therapy and life-coaching groups for many years, and the transformations I have witnessed from supportive group dynamics are nothing less than astonishing.
Choosing to get involved with a supportive group can be an emotionally corrective experience. Although we cannot choose our families, we can choose our "life tribes" (friends, significant others, work environments, religious institutions, community organizations, even Zumba posses). Unfortunately, many of our bad relationship habits are the result of unresolved issues from our families of origin. In repeating these patterns, we are unconsciously seeking to rectify the original unsatisfying relationship -- but many times, instead, end up repeating it.
In choosing to form or become a member of a group, you can choose like-minded people who are also seeking positive support. I have enjoyed facilitating coaching groups for more than 15 years. Unlike group therapy, where the main function is to recognize and recreate the dynamics in your family so you can change dysfunctional patterns, group coaching focuses on bringing together a group of like-minded individuals who want to learn problem-solving tools and action-oriented steps to achieve stated goals in the present. I have seen the simple act of speaking truthfully in a supportive environment create a door to possibility where one had not existed. Positive group support inspires positive growth.
Women and men are not created equal in their need to be connected and responsive to stress. Historically, women have created and maintained social networks while men have provided financial support (or gone out to hunt down dinner). Although these roles have changed significantly in developed Western nations over the last 50 years, our nature seems to remain the same. According to a landmark UCLA study, women create, maintain, and utilize social groups, especially relations with other females, to manage stressful (read: fear-inducing) conditions. The study supports the premise that female friendships have a calming effect and can lead to decreased stress levels, which might prevent women from developing future health problems.
Men, on the other hand, according to Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., a psychologist and author, often seek an escape activity to get relief from stress. They create a relaxing diversion, such as a round of golf with a buddy, most likely not stopping on the 18th hole to discuss what might be stressing them out.
Regardless of your gender, I invite you to think about the friendships and social affiliations you currently have in your life. If you feel isolated or alone, consider finding a supportive group to join. Unofficial groups and official affiliations can add value and comfort to your life. No matter what your situation, there are many others experiencing something similar. Sharing problems and solutions with a nonjudgmental and caring posse of people will increase satisfaction and decrease stress in your life.
You deserve to have a life tribe that holds you in high esteem and generously supports your dreams.
Whether amongst friends or strangers, authentically sharing your feelings creates a bond that lessens fear and isolation. Identifying with and sharing your successes and struggles with an empathetic group makes life a little sweeter. (Less scary, too!)
There's a life tribe you can join right here! It's an open membership to be part of the Becoming Fearless community. All you have to do is start a dialogue!
Love Love Love,
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